Maybe the first thing Labour has to figure out is which side gets to keep the name

Hope suffered a serious heart attack in May’s General Election. Confronted by another five years of callous and casual incompetence from the Government and an all-too acquiescent Official Opposition, when an unexpected gap offered a real choice, Jeremy Corbyn was seized upon and made a sudden and, I think, somewhat reluctant hero. His purpose, for me, however, was always in the need to shake up the Establishment and dispel the myths of TINA; to provide a platform for overdue challenges to the status quo. It was never about loyalty and love for the Labour Party or Corbyn, himself: he was just the only anti-TINA in his party to put his head on the block. Still, the collective relief was palpable after he won the leadership contest and I cheered the fresh air.

The abundant sycophancy for Corbyn, the man, though, is relief made ridiculous. So, too, is the equally abundant carping and vitriol of his opponents. A lot of people like to imagine that if you support Corbyn’s general narrative then you must be a devotee and that if you say anything anti-Corbyn, you must be a ‘Blairite’ or in another party, altogether. This is the nonsense of media mischief and tribal baggage. As a voter, left-leaning is about as near to a default position as I’ve observed in myself. Before plugging into the Twittersphere I just thought I was a humanitarian who believes in democracy. It is only by participation in public discourse that I have had to wrestle with a landfill of labels that are, simultaneously, convenient shorthands and poisonous straitjackets.

The concerns I’ve expressed about Corbyn’s desire and capacity to lead and his lack of willing support from the most experienced MPs are proving depressingly material. I’m sorry to see this decent man chewed up and spat out by the political establishment and shabby journalism. I’m upset by their deliberate undermining of an alternative narrative that Corbyn is trying to facilitate and I’m impatient with his own seeming inability and reluctance to at least play the game to more beneficial ends. It’s all very well saying he shouldn’t have to but that’s naive. The game is a highly popular and historically engrained fixture that won’t disappear by minority wish but is, at least, faster and smarter changed by an appearing to observe its rules. No, I don’t much like it, either.

I don’t think Corbyn is a great orator or effective manager and I do a wits’-end expression every time there’s a seeming bungle or re-interpretation for the Press to milk but I also realise that he is having to learn on the job in a very hostile environment and that this makes it difficult to gauge how much he is being hindered and how much he is hindering himself. Nevertheless, when he – or McDonnell – are interviewed and I hear them speak for themselves, they mostly sound calm, informed and reasonable.

And if not Corbyn, then who, right now? Like so many, I shared much of his general analysis on the state of domestic and foreign policy before I’d heard of him and he was given the oxygen. And condemnation of the exploitation of people and resources for exoteric global dominance and personal gain, by people who have the will, the influence and the power to do so, is what we were waiting for, after all.

What gets constantly overlooked by the journalists and the usual Labourites is that the value perspective Corbyn wants to give space to is the very space that these same MPs refuse to countenance beyond lip service and that a multitude of voters desperately wants and deserves to hear. If those Bubble-wrapped MPs had expressed sincere opposition to this thoroughly destructive socio-economic status quo, their party would have a more can-do-Politics leader. Well, they didn’t. And if genuine acceptance of and support for Corbyn’s position was there, now, there would be a cohesive and coherent message and a more efficient method; if their spinning was genuinely positive, the Conservatives would be not merely shaking in small doses but wobbling magnificently and visibly on their perch.

I don’t know what is really going on. I’d have to be in the Bubble to know, for sure. All I have to go on is what I see for myself and the media commentariat, paid and voluntary. It is hard to watch. We all know how desperately the country needs the Government to face opposition, scrutiny and redirection. I understand and buy the merits of having wide-ranging debates so as to discover consensus and develop a party line but the two sides seem diametrically opposed over too many issues that are fundamental to cohesion.

It looks like Labour is really two parties fighting for what they believe is its soul. Or maybe all that Labour is fighting over is the empty husk where its soul once dwelled. They can’t keep telling us that they are united in their values when their record and the dirty laundry they are now washing says otherwise to the public. Both sides are in each other’s way and that means Labour is not credible or electable, whichever side is preferred.

Maybe the first thing Labour has to figure out is which side gets to keep the name; the name that speaks to the notion of making tedious hard work of everything. Personally, I think I’d let the ‘Blairites’ have it.

I find that I resonate with many of the parties to varying degrees, even if only on a fragment but not one of them represents me enough to wish to become a member, let alone vote for one. The political solutions I could vote for are not available in a party that commands national electoral viability, including the part of Labour that I prefer. I have nowhere to go.

The measure of our government

These days, whenever there is criticism raised against one of their policies, the Conservative government, *most ignorant of what [it’s] most assur’d, asks that we mitigate any pesky details as “part of a package”. They want us to see them as having the full grasp of the big picture and to believe that they have a coherent and comprehensive plan to suit. The package always involves conjured projection and results in false economy, the effect of which is misery, division and fear-filled chaos. Just how much is down to carelessness and ineptitude or callous and deliberate disregard can be hard to discern.

Whatever the mix, they skim over most things with their blinkers on. Every promise is backed by revisionism or some impossible prediction, manipulated to complement an ideological agenda. They patronise with “look: these are difficult decisions” but they don’t have any difficulty, at all, in making their decisions. Rather, any difficulty the Government has is in the expanding audience that finds its words and deeds unpalatable. Every successful challenge to their preposterous machinations is to be congratulated but it behoves us to keep in mind that each occasion marks a tawdry default philosophy, yearning to dominate and manifest. It is not a philosophy divined through integrity, wisdom or justice. It does not contain respect or compassion for people and it makes little allowance for dignity.

The cheapest media salivates over each meme and event as though it were a turn in a Roman amphitheatre and the quality of coverage and scrutiny at the serious end is an intellectual hit-and-miss and, too often, occurring too long after the fact to be an effective holding to democratic account.

What kind of Society does this prevailing political machinery believe it is keeping secure? Not one within which to find stability and contentment. Which silly, self-absorbed playground values do its proponents believe they are upholding while they undermine or dismiss the universal values over which they love to claim mastery? We are quickening on the cusps of monumental shifts at every level and whether this heralds an age of enlightenment or darkness is being determined by how we respond to the present. Those that lead and inform and shape public discourse are dabbling with nuance and detail at their whim and at our peril. We are wasting time.

Domestic and foreign policies are mirrors to each other and together, they reflect the measure of our government and project the potential of our country.

It is perfectly reasonable and understandable to be worried about the motivation, competency and integrity of the people in control and their processional devotees. Why on earth should we believe that they truly care about people, the planet or peace? Look at how easily they treat disadvantaged and vulnerable people as burdens and threats. Look at how they causally disregard the environment. They are not in power for the love of Humanity, not at home or abroad.

Having serious reservations about, for example, Cameron’s Syria ‘plan’ does not mean that you are unpatriotic, a lefty pacifist, a coward or an appeaser of fascists. And railing against their cruel, socio-economic nonsense that threatens nearly every good thing about us does not mean that you are anti-business, envious of the rich, a ‘Corbynista’, a scrounger/shirker, or an extremist.

I am afraid. Not of the things our leaders tell us to be afraid of but because I fear that our leaders really do not have a clue what they are doing. And I am quite terrified that, actually, they do.


*’Merciful heaven,
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Splits the unwedgeable and gnarlèd oak
Than the soft myrtle; but man, proud man,
Dress’d in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d—
His glassy essence—like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.’
[Measure for Measure, II.ii]


The gloss:
The glee and glint in cheapest print;
The swash of military bish-bash-bosh;
The ministerial sprint for derring-do.

The glue:
Each heavy splash of whitewash;
The supple shadows minting déjà vu;
So many, owned so much, by so few.

Thy Kingdom Come

Opportunity mocks.
On Rapture’s banner
Told you so and jerking knees fly hot and high.
Horizon of Humanity, a chasm, yawning –
Hands are wrung
Bring out your dread
As anthems sung –
A roaring cottage industry.
Some cynical spark remarks upon the latest data:
Productivity is soaring!
And the binaries are rounding; calling
Seed and salt, the reaping spun.
A side: decide.
Choose one
Or one will be assigned.
The long-term economic plan is drawing.
In its end, we are begun
The sum of sums.
Thy kingdom come.

Woods and trees

We are, each, the embodiment of the human condition. Peoples to a person, unique and the same, our imperatives and characteristics overlapping and bumping into each other, relative and subject to a million and one contexts. We hardly know ourselves, even as we presume to categorise others and seek to negate or reshape them to fit our fleeting comfort.

We cherry-pick ‘n mix micro and macro for argument’s sake and we treat them as isolated systems when it comes to, well, systems. We confuse and conflate effects and correlations, assigning their causes according to tribal instincts, narrow, prescriptive framing and emotional whim and yet how easily we forget that every thing leads to another. Not just the things we pay attention to.

How we fuss. We scrutinise the heart out of each other, fixing on binary reductions of acceptability or threat. We sacrifice nuance and complexity to distortion and banality. We muddle the most superficial or irrelevant with the most profound of natural states and we behave as though either and both might bring the human world to its knees at any moment.

We’re still fighting for universal respect for and application of human rights; still protesting for socio-economic justice and basic civil equalities. We’re still ascribing sub-human status, according to paranoia and political fancy; still elevating dross to celebrity; still coveting what we think exists over our neighbour’s fence. We’re still monopolising and squandering the resources of our one, beautiful planet; still arguing about whose God is greatest… And over and over we make war in the name of Peace. We are already on our knees.

We think we see things as they really are but, really, we’re only seeing things as we are and we are aware of little more than events and selected details. We don’t know when to speak up and when to mind our own business. We don’t recognise what we should and need to control or what we are allowing to have control over us. We don’t discriminate appropriately or effectively; we can’t discern wish from truth nor potential from reality and so we think it simpler to just try to control everything and everyone.

And how we faff. We constantly tinker around the edges of problems, addressing the latest symptoms and ignoring their quite evident causes. This doesn’t just allow old symptoms to fester and their causes to become downgraded, over time, to ‘unfortunate’ but it also adds a whole other level of new causes. We seem hell-bent on rose-tinted nostalgia but we refuse to actively retrace our steps. We would rather pretend that we are merely adapting to forces beyond our control than reaping the consequences of so much that should have been avoided.

We don’t really look at the roots and common threads of our problems. Not deeply nor wholly. We glimpse with darting, panicked eyes, wring our hands and do what we can with the skim. Just getting through the day. Lurching with fingers crossed. But the skim has to go somewhere. It becomes another blanket burden to Society, to add to the already suffocating layers and it creates further opportunities for ideological and financial exploitation. Every burden we bear provides another’s comfort blanket. Worse, still, if our comfort comes by the increase of another’s burden. It isn’t ethical or sustainable.

We live under a constant process of inadequate triage. Tinkering and skimming are default management settings. Like bailing out a distressed boat that was never really seaworthy. There is viable land and most of us have spotted it but the crew prefer that we keep bailing, even as the holes increase and the weather worsens. The crew is drunk on the short-term, shortsighted power of profitable crises. The officers and their minions tell us that that land is hostile and to bail faster, lest we run aground the only boat available for that long-promised rising tide to lift.

We are gullible sponges and cynical repellents, by context, by turn, susceptible to wish and self-fulfilling prophecy. We are sands, easily shifted; blades of grass, bending upon a fixed point. And as entrenched as granite.

And between us, we have managed to undermine the subtle and make a virtue out of complicating the obvious. We’ve managed to fragment history and turn it into a blueprint for all manner of psychopathic algorithms and effectively reduced Imagination and Empathy to a small, closed circuit.

The way the Tories roll

The principle that’s principal
Is risible
The higher ones invisible
The way the Tories roll

Integrity neglected
Law and ethics disrespected
Fact and fiction self-selective
That’s the way the Tories roll

The gap in credibility
Is sizeable
And utterly derivable
The way the Tories roll

Logic magic’ly fragmented
Half the party looks demented
Even sound as though they meant it
It’s a leading Tory role

Can’t tell their elbows from their arses
All hot air and whoopsie farces
Sinister, the stink that passes
Whereabouts the Tories roll

Crony ring of tooth and claw
Surviving on revolving doors
And carousels of dizzy poor
Sees Tories on a roll

With patronising platitudes
And breathtaking ineptitude
They then expect our gratitude
Oh, how the Tories roll!

Avoiding liability
Financial incivility
And yearning for hostility
There’s no deniability
That Tory heads must roll

For the slope of plausibility
Grows slippery
With trickery
And, trip! There goes fuckwittery
How fast can Tories roll?